Nico Hulkenberg admits he struggled with the “mental” side of his three-year full-time absence from the Formula 1 grid.
With almost 180 grands prix in the bag, the now 35-year-old lost his Renault race seat after 2019 and since then has only contested the odd race as a one-off substitute.
But he is back in F1 this year with Haas, with the small American team preferring Hulkenberg’s vast experience over the much younger Mick Schumacher.
When asked if he is looking forward to racing properly again, the German told Sport Bild: “There is tension but it’s positive. It’s been a long wait.
“After 2019 it was a conscious decision to leave Formula 1, knowing that there might be no turning back. From the middle of the year, I wasn’t in the best mental shape.
“But the break gave me some distance from Formula 1 and a reset. Of course it was different to follow F1 from afar, but the time was also good and necessary for me.
“It’s certainly the reason why I am now very organised, motivated, fresh and ready to attack,” Hulkenberg added.
Now, with Schumacher out and Sebastian Vettel retiring, he is the only German driver in Formula 1.
“I don’t really feel any weight on my shoulders or any pressure,” Hulkenberg insists. “It often happens in waves and I think we’re in a phase right now in Germany where it’s a little less.”